Halftime – BAL 20, PHI 14

Posted: December 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 156 Comments »

What an odd 1st half. Things started really ugly, with a Carson Wentz INT and a quick Ravens TD. Then the Eagles came up with a takeaway deep and got a quick TD of their own. Weather became an issue and the Eagles decided to go for 2, which they got. That put them up 11-10.

The Ravens put together a FG drive. The Eagles got the ball back and decided to focus on running the ball. They methodically moved down the field, running the ball over and over. That ended with a FG to put them up 14-13.

The Eagles had momentum. Things felt good.

Then Baltimore had a long KOR and came up with a 30-yard TD pass at the end of the half. They now lead 20-14. That was a dagger. You can’t allow points like that with just seconds on the clock. Giving up a FG would have been bad enough, but a TD? Bad.

The game has been a mixture of ups and downs. We’ll see what happens in the 2nd half.

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Gameday – PHI at BAL

Posted: December 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 213 Comments »

Let’s get to the news.

Isaac Seumalo will be your starting RT, the Eagles 4th of the season. Wow.

Some are debating Bryce Treggs playing over Paul Turner. What’s the point? Turner is more fun to cheer for because he’s the blue collar guy and underdog. Treggs has more speed and talent, but he’s not been very productive this year.

More important thing to focus on is the OL. What happens if anyone gets hurt? Dillon Gordon would make his NFL debut at OT. Josh Andrews would play at G/C.

No Smith means the Ravens secondary is vulnerable. Can the Eagles WRs take advantage? I wouldn’t bet your mortgage payment on it, but we’ll see what happens.

This could be an ugly game. This could be a fun game. Don’t really have a great feel for it.

Let’s see what happens…

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Game Preview – PHI at BAL

Posted: December 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 9 Comments »

Last week the Eagles had to deal with a high powered offense. This time out they face a top flight defense. The Ravens come into the game 21st in scoring so their offense is nothing to write home about. They are 4th in both points and yards allowed so they can play some serious defense, which is what you expect of a Ravens team.

This feels like a bad week for the Eagles. They are banged up, with Darren Sproles out and Allen Barbre not sounding likely to play. The Eagles have lost 4 games in a row and haven’t won on the road since they beat the Hessians at Trenton in 1776. Or at least it seems that long. The Ravens have won 4 of their last 6 games and they are fighting for a playoff berth. They have the veteran QB and the Eagles rookie is going to face a tough, veteran defense.

The very fact this feels so one-sided is what makes me wonder if this won’t be a game the Eagles end up winning. I wrote a game preview for PE.com. I detailed some legitimate reasons the Eagles can be optimistic.

I also wrote about Isaac Seumalo, who will start at RT if Barbre is out. Part of me does want Barbre to miss the game so we can see if Seumalo can play there. RT isn’t his spot long term, but it would be good to know if he can fill in there if needed in the future. He did play some OT a couple of times in college. The big downside is that you don’t want him getting beat on a play and the rusher possibly hurting Carson Wentz.

Someone asked Doug Pederson about shutting Wentz down to keep him healthy rather than risking him behind a patchwork OL. Pederson said he wanted to keep his QB on the field. I completely agree with that. There is risk, but at the end of the day this is football and you need your best players on the field if there is something for them to gain. Wentz is going to get an independent study course today called Facing the Ravens Defense. He might struggle. He might succeed. But he will learn a thing or two that can help him down the road.

Will this be the game where the Eagles defense has a breakout performance? Joe Flacco is a big target and isn’t the athlete he used to be. He’s been sacked 25 times this year. You can bet the Eagles will go after him aggressively. It would be so nice to see a QB go down 5 or 6 times in a game. It’s been way too long since that happened. The Ravens don’t run the ball much at all so the defense should have plenty of chances to get after Flacco.

The Eagles win, no matter what happens. If they lose the game, they have better draft position. If they win the game, the players get to feel good about themselves for winning on the road, beating a good team and ending their losing streak.

Just keep Wentz healthy and whatever else happens, happens.

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More on the OL and the Offseason

Posted: December 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »

After the previous post about the Eagles possibly focusing on the OL in the offseason, there were some interesting responses.

Read the post. The Eagles don’t need to magically turn things around. They need to build an O-line for Carson Wentz. It will take time to do this. The OL isn’t bad now, but there is a need for young talent that can grow with Wentz over the next few years.

Also, this isn’t about forcing a pick. The Eagles don’t have to spend their 1st rounder on an OL (or a CB or WR for that matter). This roster has enough holes that the Eagles should focus on adding the best players. The Eagles do need to invest resources on the OL. Todd Herremans and John Welbourn were each 4th round picks that became outstanding players for the Eagles. Jason Kelce was a 6th rounder. Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai weren’t early picks and both have shown the potential to be starters in the future.

Adding pieces to the OL doesn’t mean the team will ignore other spots. Pretty much every person on planet Earth knows the Eagles need WR help.

A few people wanted to know about this. Seumalo played C in college and has the skill set to start there in the NFL. If the Eagles had someone else at LG, I could see them letting Seumalo battle Jason Kelce for the C job. One thing to keep in mind, in Pederson’s final year in KC they started a rookie at C. He was also in Philly when Kelce started as a rookie. Pederson will give a rookie or other young player a shot to win that job. And it doesn’t have to be a super high pick. The Eagles aren’t blind. They know Kelce has been up and down this year. He isn’t guaranteed to return. If he does, he’ll be challenged.

*****

The Eagles know they need skill players.

I was a big fan of Jackson’s prior to the draft. Too bad the Browns took him. Excellent size-speed guy with a lot of potential.

The Eagles did bring up Byron Marshall from the practice squad.

He’s terrific in space. The question is how he will do between the tackles when going against NFL starters. Don’t expect him to get a ton of work, but hopefully he will get some touches in the next few weeks.

*****

So why not add WR Michael Floyd?

Jimmy wrote a good piece on why Floyd didn’t make sense for the Eagles.

If this was October, things might be different. If the Eagles were in the playoffs, things might be different. The Eagles have 3 games left. They need to focus on young players who can be part of the future. Floyd has character issues. He also wasn’t putting up great numbers this year. There just isn’t much of a reason for the Eagles to go after him.

The Pats took a chance on him. They will be in the postseason and that is the key difference.

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Lining Up Hints

Posted: December 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 167 Comments »

Deep Purple is one of the greatest bands of all time. They have one of the greatest live albums of all time, Made in Japan. There is a funny moment when singer Ian Gillan is trying to get the sound adjusted on stage and he jokingly says “Can we have everything louder than everything else?”. Obviously that’s impossible. You have to pick and choose what you focus on.

The Eagles have to pick and choose how to fix this team in the offseason. They can’t add a star CB, star WR, star RB, star OL and star DL. They only have one 1st round pick and they have a budget to deal with in free agency (not to mention limited options). It will be fascinating to see how the Eagles proceed. How do they build up the team around Carson Wentz?

The first thing to keep in mind is that there is no perfect formula. Seattle spends most of their money on defense. They ask Russell Wilson to carry the offense and make the guys around him better. Tom Brady was surrounded by role players from 2001-2006. Good ones, but still role players. He’s had elite guys like Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski since then. Dallas has spent a lot of resources on their O-line in recent years and built their offense around that. Oakland and Detroit have focused more on the OL in recent years and it seems to be working for them. Denver won the Super Bowl last year based on an elite defense.

No magic formula. No right answer.

So what will the Eagles do?

I always remind you to read Dave Spadaro, in case he’s offering hints. He just posted a column that just might be a hint: Offensive Line A Priority Looking Ahead. Maybe this is just Dave throwing out his opinion. Or maybe this is the team, trying to get the fanbase ready for the fact they won’t be focusing the offseason on adding WRs.

As we all know, the offensive line is where it all happens in this game. Look at the mess in Los Angeles for the Rams, who can’t get star running back Todd Gurley unlocked because of a terrible offensive line (among other things). Oakland’s offense has been dynamic, but last week in Kansas City the Chiefs dominated the line of scrimmage and shut down quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders. Dallas won 11 consecutive games until the Giants pressured quarterback Dak Prescott on Sunday night and the Cowboys scored all of seven points in a loss. The stories are consistent in the NFL: A good offensive line usually means a good offense. A great offensive line means great things.

The goal, then, is to have a great offensive line here. The Eagles can’t take chances with that, as the Colts have done by subjecting franchise quarterback Andrew Luck to so many hits that his body failed him in 2015 and for parts of this season.

Yes, for sure, the Eagles need weapons. They need pieces. First and foremost, though, they need to be sure they have the right ingredients for a great offensive line – with continuity among the starters, reliable depth behind them and some young players in development in the third tier – to keep Wentz clean, to continue his progress and to give this offense a fighting chance in the very strong NFC East.

Hint or opinion? I’m not sure.

I do think it is very possible he’s right either way and the Eagles will focus up front. Doug Pederson is an Andy Reid protege and we know Big Red loved adding offensive linemen. Howie Roseman also developed under Reid and I’m sure he’s got many of the same beliefs.

So let’s talk about the OL. The Eagles have some pieces to work with, but also some questions to answer. What do you do with Jason Peters? Lane Johnson? Jason Kelce? Have you seen enough from Isaac Seumalo and Big V to see them as potential answers, whether in 2017 or the future?

Peters is probably the key to this situation. He has had a solid season, but is a declining player. Peters remains a good LT, but he’s not the elite player he was in past years. He will be 35 next year and has a cap figure of $11.2M. My guess is that the Eagles keep him another season. Tra Thomas was the LT prior to him and you could see in 2008 that Thomas was done. Age and injuries took their toll on his body. Peters isn’t at that level yet.

Keeping Peters gives you stability at the most important spot on the line. It also lets you add players in the draft and take a look at them before forcing them into the lineup.

Lane Johnson is a tricky subject. He was off to a terrific start this year. He is a good RT with great potential. I think he can move to LT and be a stud on that side. But he does have the suspension issue. You can look at that a couple of ways. On one hand, he is a positive test away from a 2-year ban and shouldn’t be trusted. On the other hand, he didn’t test positive for the same substance so this isn’t a case of complete stupidity or neglect. Also, he tested positive for something to try to improve himself. This isn’t Bernard Williams we’re talking about.

There is risk with Johnson, but there is risk with every NFL player. The Eagles lost young stars Byron Evans, Andy Harmon and Chris T. Jones to injuries. The Eagles lost Danny Watkins because he preferred fighting fires to playing football. Players come and go for all kinds of reasons. When you have a good OL, you keep him. The Eagles need to protect themselves financially, but they should plan on Johnson being part of the future.

Heading into 2017, the projected OL should be:

LT Jason Peters
LG Isaac Seumalo
OC Jason Kelce
RG Brandon Brooks
RT Lane Johnson ……. Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Josh Andrews is a backup now and the coaches seem to like him, but they never seem in a rush to get him on the field. You want to upgrade on him. Dillon Gordon and Darrell Greene should be brought back to compete for jobs. Gordon showed a lot of potential this summer. We didn’t get to see G/C Aaron Neary this summer, but the Eagles like him and is worth keeping as competition. But you can see the Eagles need depth. Peters is a short term player. You could slide Johnson to his side and put Big V at RT, but you still need young, talented players to add to the mix.

Jason Kelce is worth keeping, but I would challenge him. Bring in a player who can seriously battle for that job. Kelce is smart and athletic, but erratic. He has a couple of bad plays that get everyone’s attention and they think he’s awful. That’s just not the case. That said, the Eagles need to make Kelce fight for his job. He hasn’t played so well that you pencil him in and only look at other spots.

We talk a lot about wanting to upgrade the line or make changes. Let’s look at the 3 best units of the last 15 years.

2002

LT Tra Thomas
LG John Welbourn
OC Hank Fraley
RG Jermane Mayberry
RT Jon Runyan

2006

LT Tra Thomas
LG Todd Herremans
OC Jamaal Jackson
RG Shawn Andrews
RT Jon Runyan

2013

LT Jason Peters
LG Evan Mathis
OC Jason Kelce
RG Todd Herremans
RT Lane Johnson

The biggest thing you should think about as you look at those units is that they were built over time. OLs are not thrown together in a single season. It takes multiple years to draft, sign and develop players. You are going to have failures. You are going to have some players that develop slowly.

The Eagles want to put Carson Wentz behind a really good OL. That is going to take time. They do need to bring in bodies this offseason to start developing, but be patient with the process. Mayberry was a 1st round pick in 1996 and he was brought in to block Dallas DT Leon Lett. But the Eagles decided to try him at OT and that didn’t go so well. He eventually found a home at RG and proved to be a good player. Welbourn started off at RT, but got hurt. The team signed Runyan to be the RT so Welbourn got moved to LG.

The Eagles acquired the OL above in a variety of ways. Some were high picks, some UDFAs. Some were pricey free agents and others were cut by teams. You find good players all over. I don’t anticipate the team spending money on a huge free agent OL this offseason, but they would be wise to add some journeymen types. You never know which of them could be the next Evan Mathis.

Carson Wentz looks like a really good QB. The Eagles need to build a good line to protect him. Build. Not buy/rent/patch together. It will take at least a couple of years for them to bring in talent and see who pans out. There will be failures. That’s okay as long as there are also successes and the Eagles can put together a talented group that can stay together for a few years.

*****

We found out today about Brandon Brooks dealing with anxiety which leads to his gameday illnesses. This is certainly something the team will keep in mind as they build the line, but Brooks seems like a high character guy and I think he and the team will be able to work through this.

I give him a ton of credit for being open and honest about the situation. He’s got nothing to be ashamed of, but it would have been easy to try to play this off. Instead, he shared his situation with everyone and that tells you he’s the kind of guy that has a good chance to get past his issues. He wants to succeed. That’s half the battle.

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